Every car name categorized

Have you ever wondered what the name of your car means or maybe how manufacturers come up with names? After all, we say names like Camry, Miata and Passat without pausing to think if those names have a meaning. Turns out almost every car name has some significance that can be grouped into 12 categories.

what does the name of your car mean

Our study looked at 215 models, but there were exclusions. We left out some discontinued models and models with letter-number naming conventions used by BMW, Lexus and Mercedes.

– Location

– Adventure

– Nature

– Cultural

– Transportation

– Power

– Futuristic

– Versatility

– Speed

– Musical

– Human Names

– Technology

Location | 21.9% of names

vienna italy river boats image

Manufacturers really, really like naming their cars after places, even if the location has absolutely nothing to do with the brand’s history. Oh well, here are some of the interesting ones.

Toyota Venza: Named by combining the word venture with the city Monza, Italy.

toyota venza black grey country

Subaru Tribeca: Named after the bustling New York City neighborhood.

Chevrolet Tahoe: Ever heard of Lake Tahoe? Of course.

Adventure | 19.53% of names


Having a sense of freedom, ruggedness and adventure was critical to the appeal and marketing of SUV’s in the 1990’s and it continues with today’s crossovers. These names help drivers imagine forging rivers, tackling sand dunes and scaling the sides of mountains, even if your car never leaves the pavement.

Audi Allroad: Fitting name for the luxury station wagon with AWD, ride height adjustable suspension and a Biturbo V6.

Ford Escape: Cue the Indiana Jones puns.

ford escape offroad blue image

Of course, there are cars with adventurous names that seem just a tad bit far fetched.

Honda Odyssey: As a literary term, it means a long journey full of adventures

honda odyssey red bbc image

Nature | 14.42% of names

flower fields toyota corolla

Ahh, the great outdoors. In this category, we included anything that occurs naturally in the world, even the animals.

Toyota Corolla: Another name for the petals of a flower.

Volkswagen Passat: German trade wind.

2014 volkswagen passat white

Hyundai Equus: Genus of animals that include the zebra, horses and donkeys.

Volkswagen Tiguan: Combine “tiger” and “iguana” and what do you get?

volkswagen tiguan blue image

Cultural | 9.76% of names

chichen itza mexico image

This is where the names get truly interesting.

Toyota Yaris: Formed by combining the name of the greek god Charis, who symbolizes beauty and elegance, and the German word for affirmation, “Ya.”

toyota yaris silver mojo motorsVolkswagen Touareg: Named after a tribe of nomadic people in Northern Africa. Chosen to represent the strength and adaptability of their new crossover SUV.

Volkswagen Eos: Named after the Greek Titan Eos, goddess of the dawn.

Ford Taurus: Named after the second sign in the astrological zodiac, Taurus. It means “bull-like.”

ford taurus 2013 black new

Transportation | 6.98% of names

oregon trail black and white

Some car names get right to the point: getting you from A to B.

Dodge Grand Caravan: A caravan is a vehicle designed to be lived in.

2014 dodge grand caravan black sport

Volkswagen Phaeton: Means light, open horse drawn carriage.

Chrysler PT Cruiser: The PT means “personal transportation.”

chrysler pt cruiser convertible

Power | 6.02% of names

dodge challenger burnout power orange

These manufacturers want you to know that these cars mean business, so they gave them names that represent authority, strength, and POWER!

Jeep Commander: Person in charge, especially in a military application.

Nissan Armada: Fleet of warships

Nissan Armanda Name Meaning

Mitsubishi Galant: derived from the word “Gallant” which describes bravery and heroism.

Futuristic| 5.12% of names

future city image

Manufacturers took a leap into the unknown with these futuristic labels.

Toyota Prius: Named for the latin prefix “pre” meaning “to come before.”

red toyota prius

Honda Prelude: The definition of Prelude is, “an action or event leading to something more important.” I wonder what Honda was referring to?

Mazda Millenia: Derived from the “Millennium” which means 1,000 years.

Versatility | 4.19% of names

2015 honda fit trunk image

There are more automotive categories than ever before, and many vehicles are blurring the lines. These names let people know their cars are ready for a multitude of tasks.

Nissan Versa: This one’s pretty obvious.

2014 nissan versa sedan blue wow

Honda Fit: Named because, although its a sub-compact, you’ll be surprised what you can “fit” in it. Ha!

Saturn VUE: Saturn had a new “VUE” (view) on the SUV.

 Speed | 3.72% of names

black and white sand flats

Momentum, clip, pace, call it what you want, these names are dedicated to every gear head’s favorite thing, going fast.

Hyundai Veloster: Derived from the word velocity, which is the combination of speed and direction.

2012 hyundai veloster

Chevrolet Sonic: The word Sonic refers to the speed of sound, but with a 138 horsepower, don’t expect to come close to the sound barrier.

Dodge Dart: Think aboout it. To dodge from something or to dart from something is the same thing. Pretty redundant.

2013 dodge dart red

Musical | 3.26% of names

arizona symphony

There are quite a few names out there in the automotive world that denote music, particularly classic music.

Kia Forte: When reading music, a Forte instructs the person to play the note loud and strong.

2014 kia forte blue sedan

Hyundai Sonata: A musical composition involving a soloist, perhaps accompanied by a piano. Moonlight Sonata, anyone?

Kia Cadenza: An instrumental or vocal solo in a larger piece of music, such as a Sonata.

Human | 2.77% of names

car love image

People love their cars so much that they often adorn them with human names. Sometimes manufacturers do this too, whether its to credit someone involved with its creation or just to give it a personal touch.

GMC Jimmy: Jimmy got its name from the sound “GM” makes when spoken, such as how Jeep sounds like “GP.” Either way, Jimmy sounds like the type of guy you’d like to have around.

MINI Cooper: Named after the famous car maker John Cooper.

mini cooper racing

Chevrolet Caprice: Caprice is an Italian name meaning fanciful or “over imaginative and unrealistic.”

Technology | 2.33% of names

2013 tesla model s cockpit

Technology and Miley Cyrus have defined American culture. Luckily one is more evident in car names. Some of these cars truly deserve their technological designation, while we can’t help thinking that some of these names were picked simply for the way they sound.

Chevrolet Volt: Voltage is the unit of measurement for electromotive force, which is the perfect name for Chevrolet’s first electric car.

battle of the hybrids

Saturn Ion: Maybe you recall this from Chemistry 101, an Ion is an atom that is electrically charged due to the loss or gain of an electron(s).

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Written by Tristan Cathers

Picture Credits: Tourtoo, Hosmer Toyota, Truck Trend, BBC, CA Through My Lens, Motor Trend, SRV2, My American Odyssey, Deviant Art, Sports Car Digest